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primavera's journal - Archives
Posted by KevinJ in Latest Breaking News
Thu Jun 04th 2009, 12:38 PM
Remember how we recruited Chinese nationals to come here and build our railroads for us? Because Americans didn't want to go stand out in the sun and drive railway spikes? Well, we got someone else to build our railroads for us, which revolutionized the economy, causing it to expand by about a thousand fold, and, in return for this service the Chinese provided us, we treated them like shit, with even our courts describing them as subhuman (see Chae Chan Ping), and barred them from bringing their families to the US. But that's cool, right? After all, they were just "guests."

I think what Americans need to better understand is the benefits they derive from immigration of which they are not aware. Many people seem to believe that American workers really want to stand out under the blazing sun and pick vegetables. If that's so, then why is it that American farmers advertise for pickers and no American ever shows up to perform the job? American farmers don't discriminate, they're happy to hire anyone who shows up. But no American worker wants to do that kind of backbreaking labor for $10/hour.

"Right," we all proclaim, "the problem is that American farmers don't pay enough to attract US workers!" Okay. I'm not sure whether that's strictly true given that American workers choose to work in places like MalWart that pay far less than migrant workers receive for picking vegetables, but, nevertheless, let's say that's true and that you could get American workers to pick produce if you only paid them enough to make it worth their while. Fine, so, the $10/hr prevailing wage plainly isn't enough, so we're going to have to increase the wage to... what? $15/hr? $20/hr? How much would it take to get you to go out and stand under the blazing sun and break your back for 10 hours straight? $25/hr? Let's split the difference, let's say $20/hr.

Okay, so we're now paying pickers $20/hr. Well and good. Except that labor is the number 1 cost in agriculture and, unlike the banking industry, agriculture doesn't have any huge profit margins they can play around with - not too many multi-million dollar junkets, billion dollar a year executive salaries, caviar stocked yachts, or golden lear jets for these guys. So by doubling the wage you pay to workers, you're now going to have to double the cost to consumers. So tomatoes are now selling for $8/lb instead of $4/lb.

The only catch is, we're still allowing in imports from places like Mexico, Chile, Argentina, etc. And they aren't paying their workers $20/hr, which means that they can still sell tomatoes for $4/lb instead of $8/lb. Now you as a consumer go into your local grocery store and can choose between $8/lb American-grown tomatoes or $4/lb Chilean imported tomatoes, which are you going to choose? If you choose the more expensive home grown tomatoes, my hat's off to you for your patriotism, but I guarantee that you will be one of the very few who makes that choice. So what will happen will be that no one will buy American grown produce, and then there will be no jobs for anyone in American agriculture, paying either $20/hr or $10/hr. Congratulations, you just dismantled an entire sector of the American economy.

Now ask yourself, what's going to happen to all of the jobs that existed supporting American agriculture? How many tractors will John Deere be selling? How many truckers will need to be employed to transport vegetables that are no longer being produced? So what will happen to all of those people whose jobs you just eliminated? What will happen to all of those businesses? I'll tell you what will happen to them: they will be outsourced to those countries whose export agricultural businesses have just received a huge shot in the arm through the abandonment of the US agricultural sector. Why not? Congress these days gives businesses tax credits for firing US workers and moving their businesses off shore, why should agriculture and the businesses which support it be any different? What do you suppose is going to happen to the foreign trade balance if we suddenly have to import 100% of the food we eat?

You see, you just opened up a huge Pandora's Box here, with far-reaching consequences most people never consider. With all of that said, I'm not sure I disagree that immigration should be curtailed. Many developed countries do pay their agricultural workers more, offer better benefits, and employ a greater percentage of native workers in that sector of the economy. But they do so in ways that are not terribly popular in this country. They employ protectionist trade policies, they publicly subsidize agriculture, funded by higher income taxes and closure of loopholes for businesses, in other words, they engage in all of that commie pinko, wealth redistribution, social engineering stuff which is so horrifying to the libertarian, free market, anti-government regulation mindset in this country. Personally, I think we would be a whole lot better off it we embraced more of that commie pinko stuff and told the libertarians to shut the fuck up.

As a percentage of our income, we pay FAR less than any other country on earth to feed ourselves. And that's the way Americans like it - cheap prices for everything. Cheap food, cheap clothes, cheap houses, cheap plastic crap, cheap taxes, cheap everything, cheap, cheap, cheap, keep it coming. Well, there's a price for that imperative, which is that we aren't going to curb the flow of low cost imports, we aren't going to pay workers decent wages, we aren't going to offer reasonable benefits, and we're going to be perpetually hemorrhaging jobs to countries that pay their workers even less than we pay ours, and offer even fewer worker and environmental protections than we do. That is the inescapable price tag of our obsession with cheap goods.

And I for one think that we need to wake up and smell the coffee and undertake some serious reconsideration of our entire economy and trade practices. But until we're ready to do that, attacking immigration is attacking just one part of an economic system which creates the problems which appropriately worry you. And if you attack that one issue without first addressing all of the other issues, you're going to destabilize the economy and have no mechanisms with which to restore stability. In conclusion, immigration is one of those areas where you really need to look carefully before you leap.
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Posted by KevinJ in Latest Breaking News
Mon Apr 06th 2009, 01:19 PM
You really cut to the heart of the issue. I do not for an instant deny that there are instances in which guns are legitimately used for self-defense. I suspect that the numbers of such incidents are difficult to nail down precisely owing to the frequently, albeit naturally, subjective perceptions of what constitutes a genuinely life-threatening circumstance. I also suspect that, because of the political activism surrounding the gun issue, those numbers are often inflated by interested parties. Nonetheless, I am quite certain that, in at least some instances, guns have indeed saved lives.

Yet, the common denominator in most (not all, assuredly, but most) of those legitimately life-saving employments of guns is that they were needed to save someone from another person armed with... a gun. If your assailant had not been armed with a gun, would you still have needed a gun to defend yourself? Had they had a knife, for instance, perhaps you would have had a chance at running away, unless the assailant had the knife at your throat or something, in which case the assailant could mortally injure you whether you had a gun or not. So it seems to me that the vicious cycle we have going on here is that people have a legitimate reason to fear other citizens because those other citizens have guns and may misuse them, so we're going to go out and get more guns to protect ourselves from other people with guns, thus increasing the number of people armed with guns whom we need to be afraid of, necessitating even more guns. So how do we get off this insane merry-go-round?

You are quite right about me: my ultimate fantasy is a world without any guns whatsoever, in which the violence people are able to perpetrate upon one another is limited to what they can accomplish with a rock and a pointed stick. I know that I can't put the genie back in the bottle and ever create a truly gun-free world, but maybe I can take a few itty-bitty steps towards a gun-freer world by supporting stricter gun control policies. Maybe, in so doing, I can de-legitimize to some extent the culture which accepts guns as an ordinary and everyday fixture of daily life, maybe I can move towards a culture which, if not gun free, at least looks upon guns with greater respect for the life-taking objects which they are.

But that's obviously a long-term goal. In the short term, I may well be responsible for taking away from you the gun that could have saved your life. Am I going to feel badly about that? Oh God, yes, of course, I will and do feel horrible about it. But as things stand now, I have to feel that horribly 30,000 times a year because I am a citizen of a country which allows its populace, much of whom are not capable of using a gun responsibly or resisting their innate proclivity for violence, to have virtually unrestricted access to guns. You see, I can't escape feeling horribly in either case; either way, an utterly heartbreaking number of people will continue to die needlessly. But maybe, through stricter gun control measures, we can reduce the 30,000 figure enough to compensate for the loss of those whose lives could have been saved by guns. So maybe I will only have to feel horrible about 29,000 deaths instead of 30,000. Hey, it's an improvement, and an especially notable one if you happen to be one of the thousand. And maybe, the following year, it'll only be 28,500, and, the year after that, 28,000. Then there may be a hiccup for some reason the next year and it'll jump back up to 29,000, but then it'll fall to 27,000 the year after that. Who knows. The point is, I don't expect stricter gun control legislation to produce any overnight miracles - there are still an awful lot of guns on the streets in hands which shouldn't have them. I don't imagine that when the UK and France and Germany and Japan and all of the other countries that have strict gun control policies first implemented them, they produced overnight results either. Rather, I imagine it was the work of generations to produce a gun freer society. But everyone's got to start somewhere. And the vast majority of the developed world has already taken those first steps towards slowing down the merry-go-round and pulling back from the abyss, and now, generations later, they have successfully achieved per capita homicide rates that are far, far lower than what we have to live with in this country. Here, we refuse to take those first potentially costly steps and so the cycle of violence keeps escalating. The solution to the gun problem cannot be to simply throw more guns at it, that's like trying to put out a fire with gasoline, you're just feeding the flames.

As you say, this is of course a multi-pronged issue. Although gun control proponents can occasionally be a little careless in their choice of words, I don't imagine that very many of them believe guns to be the "cause," in the strict sense of the word, of violence; but rather the tool of choice for violence that is caused by a great many things. And I am quite certain that the main reason that countries like France and Germany and the UK and Japan and so on have such vastly lower per capita homicide rates is because they don't treat the poor, the mentally ill, the minorities, the disenfranchised and disaffected members of their societies like so much shit to be scraped off the soles of their shoes like we do. So of course, no argument, the causes of violence are complex and varied and we will not achieve a reduction in violence without addressing those root causes. Which is why I'm a proud liberal and DUer, because I recognize that those are all important pieces of the puzzle. Nevertheless, the enabling role of guns to facilitate mass harm is yet another piece of the puzzle and it too cannot be ignored.

Phew, how I do drone on! By my own reasoning, I should probably be regulated as a weapon of mass stupefication. Sorry, but yours was a very thoughtful and insightful post and really set me to thinking. Thanks for the chat and have a good one!
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